Our second victim in the Vampire Month interrogation chair is Ambrose Hall… find out more about their life in the questions that follow…
- What is the earliest memory you have of writing? What did you write about?
I did a lot of writing and drawing as a kid. I think most of my writing was fantastical or magical in some way. I remember being obsessed with witches, as well as Narnia and Robin Hood. I think I was a bit of a goth, even then. I had a secret magic club in my mum’s garden shed, which I shared with my friend. I wrote a lot of poems as a kid, and in my teens, but I’ve lost my bottle for it as an adult.
- When did you decide to become a professional writer? Why did you take this step?
I studied English and media with the intention of writing professionally, in journalism or political communication, but graduated during a recession, so I ended up teaching instead. By my mid-thirties, I’d done a lot of jobs that I hadn’t really found very rewarding. I wanted to do something that was creatively and intellectually stimulating. Then I had a family crisis, which caused me to take stock of a lot of things. As I needed to take a break from working anyway, I had a chance to reassess what I wanted to do with my life, and I started putting a lot of time into my writing. It’s still early days. Hopefully this will work out, as I feel like I’ve finally found something I love.
- What would you consider to be your greatest strength as a writer? What about your greatest weakness? How do you overcome this weakness?
I’m good at coming up with ideas, and I can be very focused when I want to be. In the past, I was a terrible perfectionist, and found it very difficult to get useful critical distance from my work. I joined an online writing community, which has helped me a lot with learning to revise and edit my work, and getting that critical perspective I need.
- Tell us about the place where you live. Have you ever derived any inspiration from your home or from anywhere you have visited?
I live in Letchworth Garden City in Hertfordshire at the moment. I’ve not really lived here very long, so I don’t think it’s had a chance to get under my skin yet. I originally come from Bradford, in West Yorkshire. Being surrounded by post-industrial decay, and the remains of a Victorian boom, has definitely influenced my gothic tendencies. I’m fairly obsessed with the idea of decay, and write dystopian fiction, as well as gothic. I worked on a dystopian noir novel last year, set in Bradford. I’m just trying to shop it round agents at the moment. I’d say the Yorkshire countryside has influenced me as well: the ruggedness of it, and of course, people going mad on moors, Wuthering Heights style.
Love is the Cure is set in London. I’ve got a bit of a love/hate relationship with the city, as a northerner, but I’ve spent a fair amount of time there over the years. It’s a place of extremes, which suited this story.
- Which book, if any, would you consider to be your greatest influence and inspiration?
I’ve taken influences from a lot of places. I’m a pretty avid reader. My biggest influences are probably Chandler, Camus and Conrad. Heart of Darkness is definitely an important one for me. I love empty spaces, howling holes and rotten hearts in stories, and characters that are strangers to their emotions.
- What drove you to write about Vampires?
I played a lot of vampire roleplay games in my late teens and early twenties, so the genre is one I’ve always been interested in, but I avoided writing vampires for a long time, for fear of churning out something derivative. Then a friend in my writing group suggested a Halloween vampire challenge, so I thought I’d give it a go. It was great fun seeing all the very different takes on vampires. I started out with a short story, but it kept growing. Soon enough I had a six part novella, told from different points of view. I got really into the challenge of portraying the very different voices, with their different historical influences and personalities.
- What do you think is the attraction for Vampire fiction? Why is it such a popular topic?
I suppose, as gothic monsters, they represent our fears and desires, and those can come out in different ways, depending on the writer. The idea of human monsters is a fascinating one—vampires allow us to explore a lot of different facets of humanity and morality. They tend to be larger than life characters, so you can amp everything up to an almost mythic level of intensity. Immortality is both attractive and tragic, and something that people have written stories about as long as people have written stories. One huge advantage of these potentially very old characters is it gives writers an excuse to plunder history for goodies.
- In a fight between all the greatest Vampires of fiction, who do you think would come out on top?
I have a feeling it would be Dracula. He’s the original badass, and he’s so steeped in violence. He’s also completely ruthless.
- What about in some other contest such as sexiness or dress sense? Who would win that one?
Anne Rice’s Lestat. He’s a pretty irresistible bad boy.
- How well do you think one of your characters would fare against the winner(s) of the above?
I have two very ancient vampires in Love is the Cure, and they’re both powerful. Bren, who is first introduced as the Crow King, reads others’ minds like they’re open books. He’s amoral, and takes whatever he wants from people without much thought. He embodies death and decay, and patriarchal arrogance. His one time lover, Ena, is very different. She’s the spirit of fire and anarchy. She’s more moral than Bren, but she’s trapped in a cycle of vengeance. I think either of them would give Dracula a run for his money, if they stopped fighting each other.
Only one of my vampires, Sebastian, is concerned with appearance, but he’s also a little stuck in the 1920s. His mortal days represent a golden time for him. Based on reader feedback so far, he seems to be most popular character. I had a lot of fun writing him. He’s a bit of a fop, extremely arrogant, and with a taste for re-enacting Hellenic myths.
- Tell us the basic premise behind your latest novel.
Love is the Cure is a six part novella, told from different points of view. Although the different fragments fit together to tell a story, it’s unified more by common themes. I explore how the very different vampires cope, or don’t cope, with immortality, as well as ideas about power and consent. At the heart of the story is Kerrick, a vampire created in the late Victorian period. He had a particularly violent creation, and still bears the emotional scars from that. He’s desperately lonely, but his own violent nature always acts as a barrier to finding companionship. In trying to keep his newly created child alive, he stumbles into an ancient feud between Bren and Ena.
There were a few things I wanted to do with the story. I wanted to explore the idea of these creatures all being monsters of one kind or another, however human they were, or appeared to be. I was interested in the idea of them being locked in cycles of behaviour, determined by their creation. I wanted to be conscious of the way their power is exorcised, as a few people had said to me that one of the things which made them uncomfortable about some vampire fiction is that vampiric powers are used as a way to override or dismiss the need for consent. So I decided to try and confront that idea head-on. One of the main bones of contention between Bren and Ena is that he takes without asking.
It’s not all serious. I’ve played around with ancient mythology, and history, in some pretty cheeky ways. Although it’s not paranormal romance, it’s very homoerotic. Most of the characters are unambiguously gay or bisexual, which I guess is my antidote to the lack of pay-off during my teenage years reading Anne Rice. It’s definitely larger than life. I wanted to show extremes, from petty criminals and rent boys, to baroque splendour and depraved aristocracy. One of my early readers said the story made them think of Caravaggio. I guess that’s a win.
Ambrose Hall is a speculative and literary fiction writer who currently lives in the South East of England. He originally comes from Bradford, in West Yorkshire, where he fell in love with gothic decay and wild moors. Ambrose has had flash fiction published in Crannog and A cappella Zoo magazines, and recently published a gothic vampire novella, Love is the Cure, available on Amazon. You can find out more about his work, and read some free short stories here: https://mrvolpone.wordpress.com/
This is the link to my book on Amazon UK: Buy Love is the Cure on Amazon